Hello, my name is Rose Edwards, my Indian names are Wau-wau-shk-aesh Deer
which was given to me by my Grandfather when I was a child, my other/adult
Ojibwa name is Migadideekwe (mih-gah-dee-day-ay-kway) Fighting/Strong
I am a ½ Indian from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC).
My mother is a full blooded tribal member who was born here on the reservation.
During the government's of plan of relocation ( to move Indians off the
reservation into the cities to assimilate them into the 'melting pot' of
America) my mother was relocated to Los Angeles where she met my father
who was a non-Indian... and thus I was born in Los Angeles. Our family has
always had a 'connection' to the land here on the reservation. For as long
as I can remember we would travel back to the rez every year to get in touch
with our native side and visit family. After living and working in the
city for far too long I, along with my son was moved back to the reservation
My family has always been active in tribal politics, my grandfather won
a land mark case in the Michigan Supreme Court on hunting and fishing rights
for Native Americans called the "Jondreau
Decision". Other family members have served on the Tribal Council,
in the tribal court as Judges, etc... So what happened in January of 1995
was so devastating.
I am a member of a group called "Fight For Justice". This
is a grass roots organization, it consists of elders, men, women, and children
of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and other Native Americans and Non-Native
Americans. Our aim is to reverse the illegal actions that Fred Dakota and
his illegally elected council members perpetrated in eliminating tribal
members who disagree with their policies, which include, but not limited
to denying people their basic civil rights of voting, the right to free
speech, the right to gather and have meetings, harassment from the Tribal
Police, etc.... So far 202 people have been striped of their birth rights.
We've held weekly meetings since January 1995 which consisted of fundraisers
which included cake walks, bake sales, pop can drive, donated items for
raffles, potluck, and donations of monies. Auctions, fish dinners and numerous
generous donations have been given for "Fight For Justice".
Here is some background on the events that led to the takeover of the my
- Dec. 17, 1936 Keweenaw Bay Constitution Approved
- Mar. 13, 1976 Tribal Council Meeting: "A motion by Helene Welsh,
that everyone approved for enrollment be categorized under 1a-section
II of Constitution. Was supported by Joan Bemis and carried unanimously."
- Sep. 8, 1988 Enactment of the Lac Vieux Desert Act, Pub.L. 100-420,
codified at 25 USC 1300h. Section 9 of the Act, 25 USC 1300h-7, directed
the Secretary of Interior as follows:
- "Notwithstanding any other law or provision in the constitution
of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, the Secretary shall call an
election within 90 days of receipt of a resolution of the Keweenaw
Bay Tribal Council requesting an election for the purpose of amending
provisions of the constitution of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community."
- In addition, Section 8 of the Act, 25 USC 1300h-6, dealing with
the distribution of a Keweenaw Bay judgment award, directed the Secretary
to accept the tribe's own certified list of members, containing many
of the persons now sought to be purged.
- May 24, 1990 Enactment of Miscellaneous Amendments, Pub.L. 101-301,
104 Stat. 210, Section 7 of which amends 25 USC 1300h-7 to direct the
secretary as follows:
- "(b) The Secretary shall accept as voters eligible to vote
on any amendments to the constitution of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
- "(1) all those persons who were deemed eligible to vote on
any amendments to the constitution of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
. . .
- Nov. 19, 1994- Tribal Council Meeting: Schedule for December annual
- Nov. 28, 1994- Tribal Council Meeting: Candidates for ballot approved,
voting district boundaries and polling places set, Election Board workers
- Dec. 17, 1994 Annual Election held. Results:
- Elected for Council:
- L'Anse District:
- Myrtle Tolonen (inc)
- Robert Voakes (inc)
- Baraga District:
- Charles Loonsfoot, Sr. (inc)
- Jerry Lee Curtis
- Election for Tribal Judge: tie vote
- Brad Dakota 224
- Nancy Edwards 224
- Referendum on corporation to own and leasing slot machines: Defeated
- Jan. 21, 1995 Tribal Council Meeting: Election Board certifies the foregoing
results and recommends new judicial election to resolve tie vote. Council
majority votes to nullify entire election.
- Feb. 18, 1995 Tribal Council Meeting: petitions were served per the
constution asking for the removal of Fred Dakota and the other seven council
member for gross neglect of duty, they were thrown in the trash can.
- Mar. 18, 1995
- Tribal Council Meeting: Council majority votes to commence removal
of three incumbent councilmen re-elected at Dec. 17th election, and
against William Cardinal, the other councilman who has refused to
join in the nullification effort. (as of 9-6-95 they have not proceeded
on this). Meanwhile, the rump group has commissioned an outside group
to investigate and "audit" the membership rolls. As a result
of this outside group's secret work todate, rolls have been prepared
threatening some 97 persons, out of an approved election roll of 529,
with being purged from their longstanding membership in the Keweenaw
Bay Indian Community. The purge thus far only relates to persons of
tribal voting age, 21 or over. Presumably the purge will continue
and encompass an even larger proportion of the tribal youth.
- The basis of the rump group's retroactive purge is alleged violation
of the Keweenaw Bay Constitution's membership provisions. As in most
tribal constitutions, Keweenaw Bay's Article II on membership begins
by defining an actual set of living persons as eligible for membership,
Section 1(a), and then goes on to provide for the membership of future
descendants in Section 1(b). A child of 1/4 or greater Indian blood
is eligible for membership if (a) both parents are Keweenaw Bay members,
or (b) at least one parent is a member and resides on the reservation
at the time of birth.This "residence" clause, which has
only been used by Fred Dakota for the convenience of purging membership,
must be amended.
- Residency is not defined in the Keweenaw Bay Constitution, but it
is a term common in the general law, where it enjoys wide and varied
interpretations. A specific example recently brought to public attention,
but otherwise not uncommon, was President Bush's "residence"
for state income tax purposes. Although residing at the White House
and maintaining a large home in Maine, the president was deemed a
resident of Texas on the strength of a hotel room he rented in Houston.
The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act furnishes a general example
of the liberality attaching to the term, preserving a serviceman's
choice of his home state as place of residence despite years of absence
on military service.
- Also at this council meeting the council voted unanimously to hire
Judge Thone from Utah to hear the cases filed in Tribal court and
to abide by what ever his decision was.
- Aug. 18, 1995 Tribal Council Meeting: Council majority (7 to 4) votes
not to abide by JudgeThone ruling on the court case against Brad Dakota
(Chairman/CEO Fred Dakota's son), they also vote to schedule a new election
on Sept. 16, 1995 with their approved voters of 333 after removing 202
people from the Tribal rolls, and disqualified (inc.) Robert Voakes to
even run in the election.
- Aug. 21, 1995 As a result of the actions of 8 council members, a group
of elders, men, women and children took possession of the tribal center
headquarters. Families have taken refuge in the Holy Name of Jesus rectory
located adjacent to the tribal center.
We recognize that under the general law, the results of an election are
subject to contest for irregularities in the election procedures. We have
no quarrel with such a principle. That is not what is at issue here.
Prior to an election the governing body, or an Election Board to whom authority
is delegated, make various decisions regarding the procedures, format, rolls
of eligible voters, place and hours of voting. Those decisions are made
by political bodies, whose deliberations are subject to objection, debate
and appeal, if necessary.
On election day, and thereafter, various regularities may occur: unregistered
voters may vote, improper ballots may be counted, pollwatchers may be absent
or act improperly, etc. These are the unforeseeable - they cannot be prevented
by prior objection, and are proper grounds for post-election challenge where
the outcome is provably affected by the irregularities.
We itemize such irregularities to make the point that no such election or
post-election irregularities are at issue here. The only irregularity is
the attempt of a rump council to nullify the unpalatable result of a duly
The sole ground suggested for nullification is that various persons on an
approved roll of members and eligible voters may not have records demonstrating
that they meet an unprecedented, rigid interpretation of a membership clause
in the tribal constitution.
This is not a case where a novel class of persons is suddenly and by stealth
imported into an election. The enrollment of these persons conformed with
policies and interpretations (a) approved by a unanimous tribal council
vote in 1976, presided over by Fred Dakota, the present leader of the rump
majority; (b) resulting in a tribal membership roll whose acceptance was
mandated by the Congress in 1988: 25 USC 1300h-6; (c) determining subsequent
eligible voter rolls including the roll for the election of the current
rump majority; and (d) securing a congressional mandate that such voters
be eligible, not only for tribal elections, but secretarial elections as
well: 25 USC 1300h-7.
Neither the roll of eligible voters, nor the policies and tribal/federal
precedents which had resulted in such roll, nor the fact that such rolls
had been utilized in their own elections, were a secret to the rump majority.
Their attack on the election and the eligible voters who participated is
neither a matter of discovery nor a matter of principle.
If, notwithstanding the body of tribal/federal precedent supporting the
existing enrollment policies, principled Council members believe that a
new, more rigid interpretation ought to govern, it is reasonable to bring
such change into public debate. If, after due deliberation, a responsible
governing body deemed it wise to change its membership policies and interpretation,
it might do so, but common decency would dictate that it do so prospectively,
without prejudice to the persons, of its own blood, who have ordered their
lives on existing policies and precedent.
But this is not the way of the rump majority. They not only seek to apply
such decision retroactively, to the disruption of hundreds of lives - they
seek to do so to reverse a decided election, including an important referendum
decision. If there is precedent for such unprincipled action, we have not
found it anywhere in a search of federal and state law.
The Congressional Role: The Lac Vieux Desert Act and the Keweenaw Bay
The purpose of this section is to make clear that the subject of membership
eligibility in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has not been a subject
foreign to the Congress. The Congress has participated in a significant
degree in recognizing the fact that the Tribal Council has taken a liberal
approach to applying its membership standards, and approving the results
of such policies. It is against that background that we turn to the Congress
at this juncture.
After years of petition, the Lac Vieux Desert Band gained federal recognition
of their separate tribal status in 1988. The vehicle for this was the Lac
Vieux Desert Act, 25 USC 1300h. Many of the LVD members had formerly been
Keweenaw Bay members; and the land to be turned over as the LVD Reservation
was land formerly held in trust for Keweenaw Bay. See 25 USC 1300h-5.
It was in that context that Congress dealt with the Keweenaw Bay Indian
Community and took the previously cited statutory action to confirm the
Tribe's membership and voter eligibility decisions.
Since the Takeover
The following was taken from a press release by the American Indian Movement:
KEWEENAW BAY INDIAN COMMUNITY (KBIC) is a duly recognized Indian Reservation
under the Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934, "48 Stat.984",
as amended by the Act of June 15, 1935 "49 Stat.378",
KBIC Constitution and By-laws were approved December 17, 1936,
KBIC is organized under a corporate charter for the Keweenaw Bay Indian
Community of the L'Anse Reservation, ratified July 17, 1937,
KBIC is situated and located on the southern shore of Lake Superior, the
Northern Peninsula of Michigan.
On October 6,7 and 8, 1995, the Grand Council of the American Indian Movement
(AIM) convened a special session at KBIC, Baraga, Michigan.
The purpose of this session was to hear testimony from members of the KBIC
regarding previous KBIC elections of September 16, 1995 and December 17,
During the Council session panel members heard testimony from 33 tribal
members, tribal council members, a former chair, tribal employees, as well
as, former tribal employees, election committee members and a former enrollment
clerk. In addition, non-Indian spouses and employees came forward and offered
statements. What we heard, deeply troubled us.
- Removal of Tribal Members on a previously approved list:
- Testimony and documentation submitted to the panel revealed 2 lists,
an official KBIC voting list and a non-voting list.
- Included in the non-voting list were individuals who were descendants
of allottees and classified as full-bloods. One individual was Kenneth
Eugene Bressette. Mr. Bressette's ancestors are well documented to
be bonafide members of KBIC.
- On or about September 16, 1995, Mr. Kenneth Eugene Bressette, whose
date of birth, February 16, 1941, approached the polling place where
he came to vote. Mr. Bressette has never been notified that his name
was stricken from the eligible voters list. He was told that he could
not vote because his name was not on the eligible voters list. Similarly,
all who testified stated that they were denied their rights to vote.
- In addition, other enrolled members testified of their fears of
being arrested if they went to vote. Instances of actual arrests and
brutality painted a virtual climate of fear.
- It appears that Article IV of KBIC's constitution provides for the
tribal council or an election board, the authority to determine rules
and regulations governing elections, and the tribal council or a Board
has authority to certify such elections, the arbitrary removal from
membership rolls by the tribal attorney or the tribal chair constitutes
a departure from KBIC's constitution and by-laws.
- Election Committee Testimony
- Election Committee Members and former members made sworn testimony
that suggests unauthorized intervention in a disputed judges race
by the tribal chair. When the election in question resulted in a tie,
election committee members were told to invalidate the tie.
- When election committee members refused this course of action, the
Chair telephonically polled the tribal council who voted to over turn
- Misuse of Power
- Following the December 17, 1994 election, resulted in members being
elected to the council who did not share the tribal chair's political
views; many employees were terminated from their positions either
by the tribal chair or the tribal attorney. Terminated employees stated,
to the panel, that they received termination notices because of their
active or inactive support of actions opposed to the chair's political
- The chair made known that he was upset and displeased with the results
of the December 17, 1994 election of which his entire ticket failed
to win any seats on the tribal council. The chair vowed that he would
review the approved voter list and remove those voters who did not
meat the "residency" requirements. Additionally, the "94
election carried a referendum to create and approve a charter for
a new economic development, that the chair was supporting. (This corporation
was be constituted of 2 tribal members, 2 non-Indians, and 1 attorney).
Voters rejected this proposed referendum by a margin of 70 percent.
Immediately following the election, employees who supported his defeat
were summarily dismissed from their positions with no due process
and programs closed.
- Upon hearing that a tie resulted between his son and another duly
enrolled member, the tribal chair told a member of the election committee,
"you will throw out the election" and slammed his fist on
her table. When community members collected the required 50 signatures
to file a complaint, charging misuse of power, the chair threw out
the petition and refused to recognize it.
- Favored Status to Selected Employees
- Under his authority a discretionary fund of 250 dollars is provided
for the chair to disburse to needy families. Testimony and statements
reveal amounts of 800 - 2,200 dollars were given to employees who
shared the tribal chair's views. In another matter, tribal employees
who share the chair views, are renters in tribally approved HUD homes
are often many dollars in arrears without fear of penalty. One such
employee is 8,000 dollars in arrears. When a tribal employee questioned
the practice of allowing favorable status to delinquent accounts such
as the 8,000 dollar debt, she was summarily dismissed.
- Documents revealed to the panel, uncovered a number of employees
living in the HUD homes with falsified records or falsified monthly
rental amounts. A deliberate pattern exists of violations of Federal
Policies and Laws governing accounts. It was further learned that
the tribal chair was aware of the discrepancies and is allowing it
- The employee who testified to this with supporting documentation
has also been fired from her position.
On or about August 22, 1995, due to the misuse of power and denial of rights
to vote, by the current tribal chair, members staged a takeover of the tribal
Tribal employees fear loss of livelihood if they speak or visit family members
who are participating in the occupation. In addition, tribal members fear
reprisals for attending ceremonial or church services, both of which are held
on lands adjacent to the tribal center.
This fear extends beyond the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community affecting tribal
youth. The arbitrary detention of school buses, resulting in Indian children
as young as Kindergarten and First Grade, being scanned with metal detectors.
The oppression and intimidation of tribal members, at their jobs, homes and
schools creates a climate of fear and trepidation. The denial of citizenship
would result in the extinction of a People.